A druid was a member of the high-ranking professional class in ancient Celtic cultures. Best remembered as religious leaders, they were legal authorities, lorekeepers, medical professionals, political advisors. While the druids are reported to have been literate, they are believed to have been prevented by doctrine from recording their knowledge in written form, thus they left no written accounts of themselves, they are however attested in some detail by their contemporaries from other cultures, such as the Romans and the Greeks. The earliest known references to the druids date to the fourth century BCE and the oldest detailed description comes from Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico, they were described by Greco-Roman writers such as Cicero and Pliny the Elder. Following the Roman invasion of Gaul, the druid orders were suppressed by the Roman government under the 1st century CE emperors Tiberius and Claudius, had disappeared from the written record by the 2nd century. In about 750 CE the word druid appears in a poem by Blathmac, who wrote about Jesus, saying that he was "... better than a prophet, more knowledgeable than every druid, a king, a bishop and a complete sage."
The druids also appear in some of the medieval tales from Christianized Ireland like the "Táin Bó Cúailnge", where they are portrayed as sorcerers who opposed the coming of Christianity. In the wake of the Celtic revival during the 18th and 19th centuries and neopagan groups were founded based on ideas about the ancient druids, a movement known as Neo-Druidism. Many popular notions about druids, based on misconceptions of 18th century scholars, have been superseded by more recent study; the modern English word druid derives from the Latin druidēs, considered by ancient Roman writers to come from the native Celtic Gaulish word for these figures. Other Roman texts employ the form druidae, while the same term was used by Greek ethnographers as δρυΐδης. Although no extant Romano-Celtic inscription is known to contain the form, the word is cognate with the insular Celtic words, Old Irish druí ‘druid, sorcerer’, Old Cornish druw, Middle Welsh dryw ‘seer. Based on all available forms, the hypothetical proto-Celtic word may be reconstructed as *dru-wid-s meaning "oak-knower".
The two elements go back to the Proto-Indo-European roots *deru- and *weid- "to see". The sense of "oak-knower" or "oak-seer" is supported by Pliny the Elder, who in his Natural History considered the word to contain the Greek noun drýs, "oak-tree" and the Greek suffix -idēs. Both Old Irish druí and Middle Welsh dryw could refer to the wren connected with an association of that bird with augury in Irish and Welsh tradition. Sources by ancient and medieval writers provide an idea of the religious duties and social roles involved in being a druid; the Greco-Roman and the vernacular Irish sources agree that the druids played an important part in pagan Celtic society. In his description, Julius Caesar claimed that they were one of the two most important social groups in the region and were responsible for organizing worship and sacrifices and judicial procedure in Gaulish and Irish societies, he claimed that they were exempt from military service and from the payment of taxes, had the power to excommunicate people from religious festivals, making them social outcasts.
Two other classical writers, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo wrote about the role of druids in Gallic society, claiming that the druids were held in such respect that if they intervened between two armies they could stop the battle. Pomponius Mela is the first author who says that the druids' instruction was secret and took place in caves and forests. Druidic lore consisted of a large number of verses learned by heart, Caesar remarked that it could take up to twenty years to complete the course of study. What was taught to druid novices anywhere is conjecture: of the druids' oral literature, not one certifiably ancient verse is known to have survived in translation. All instruction was communicated orally, but for ordinary purposes, Caesar reports, the Gauls had a written language in which they used Greek characters. In this he draws on earlier writers. Greek and Roman writers made reference to the druids as practitioners of human sacrifice. According to Caesar, those, found guilty of theft or other criminal offences were considered preferable for use as sacrificial victims, but when criminals were in short supply, innocents would be acceptable.
A form of sacrifice recorded by Caesar was the burning alive of victims in a large wooden effigy, now known as a wicker man. A differing account came from the 10th-century Commenta Bernensia, which claimed that sacrifices to the deities Teutates and Taranis were by drowning and burning, respectively. Diodorus Siculus asserts that a sacrifice acceptable to the Celtic gods had to be attended by a druid, for they were the intermediaries between the people and the divinities, he remarked upon the importance of prophets in druidic ritual: "These men predict the future by observing the flight and calls of birds and by the sacrifice of holy animals: all orders of society are in their power... and in important matters they prepare a human victim, plunging a dagger into his chest.
Fianna were small, semi-independent warrior bands in Irish mythology. They are featured in the stories of the Fenian Cycle, they are based on historical bands of aristocratic landless young men in early medieval Ireland. The historical institution of the fiann is known from references in early medieval Irish law tracts. A fiann was made up of landless young men and women young aristocrats who had not yet come into their inheritance of land. A member of a fiann was called a fénnid. Geoffrey Keating, in his 17th-century History of Ireland, says that during the winter the fianna were quartered and fed by the nobility, during which time they would keep order on their behalf, but during the summer, from Beltaine to Samhain, they were obliged to live by hunting for food and for pelts to sell. Keating's History is more a compilation of traditions than a reliable history, but in this case scholars point to references in early Irish poetry and the existence of a closed hunting season for deer and wild boar between Samhain and Beltaine in medieval Scotland as corroboration.
Some legendary depictions of fianna seem to conform to historical reality: for example, in the Ulster Cycle the druid Cathbad leads a fiann of 27 men which fights against other fianna and kills the 12 foster-fathers of the Ulster princess Ness. Ness, in response, leads her own fiann of 27 in pursuit of Cathbad. However, the stories of the Fiannaíocht, set around the time of Cormac mac Airt, depict the fianna as a single standing army in the service of the High King, although it contains two rival factions, the Clann Baíscne of Leinster, led by Fionn mac Cumhaill, the Clann Morna of Connacht, led by Goll mac Morna, lives apart from society, surviving by hunting; the Dord Fiann was the war-cry of the Fianna, they employed its use prior to and amid battle, either as a mode of communication or to put fear into their enemies. In the legend "The Death of Fionn", Fionn raises the Dord Fiann when he sees his grandson Oscar fall in battle against the armies of Cairbre Lifechair, proceeds to strike back at the enemy with great furiosity killing many dozens of warriors.
The Battle of Gabhra marked the demise of the Fianna. They had three mottoes: Glaine ár gcroí Neart ár ngéag Beart de réir ár mbriathar Fionn mac Cumhaill: last leader of the Fianna Cumhall: Fionn's father, the former leader Goll mac Morna Caílte mac Rónáin Conán mac Morna Diarmuid Ua Duibhne: a warrior of the Fianna who ran off with Fionn's intended bride Grainne and was killed by a giant boar on the heath of Benn Gulbain. Foster son of Aengus. Lughaid Stronghand: sorcerous warrior, nephew of Fionn mac Cumhaill, one of the four who could have untied the knots Diarmuid bound the sea-kings with, but refused to do so. Lover of Aife, daughter of Manannan Oisín, son of Fionn mac Cumhaill: Oscar, son of Oisín Cael Ua Neamhnainn In more recent history, the name Fianna Éireann has been used, as Fianna Fáil has been used: as a sobriquet for the Irish Volunteers, on the cap badge of the Irish Army, the name in Irish of the Army Ranger Wing, in the opening line of the Irish-language version of the Irish national anthem, as the name of the Fianna Fáil political party.
Irish Fairy Tales, a 1920 book by James Stephens containing many tales of the Fianna
Fionn mac Cumhaill
Fionn mac Cumhaill was a mythical hunter-warrior of Irish mythology, occurring in the mythologies of Scotland and the Isle of Man. The stories of Fionn and his followers the Fianna, form the Fenian Cycle, much of it narrated in the voice of Fionn's son, the poet Oisín. In Old Irish, finn means "white, lustrous, it is cognate with Proto-Irish VENDO-, Welsh gwyn, Cornish gwen, Breton gwenn, Continental Celtic and Brittonic *uindo-, comes from the Proto-Celtic adjective masculine singular *windos. Most of Fionn's early adventures are recounted in the narrative The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, he was the son of Cumhall, leader of the Fianna, Muirne, daughter of the druid Tadg mac Nuadat who lived on the hill of Almu in County Kildare. Cumhall abducted Muirne after her father refused him her hand, so Tadg appealed to the High King, Conn of the Hundred Battles, who outlawed Cumhall; the Battle of Cnucha was fought between Conn and Cumhall, Cumhall was killed by Goll mac Morna, who took over leadership of the Fianna.
Fionn Mac Cumhaill was said to be from Ballyfin, in Laois. The direct translation of Ballyfin from Irish to English is "town of Fionn". Muirne was pregnant. In Fiacal's house Muirne gave birth to a son, whom she called Deimne "sureness" or "certainty" a name that means a young male deer. Muirne left the boy in the care of Bodhmall and a fighting woman, Liath Luachra, they brought him up in secret in the forest of Sliabh Bladma, teaching him the arts of war and hunting; as he grew older he entered the service – incognito – of a number of local kings, but each one, when he recognised Fionn as Cumhal's son, told him to leave, fearing they would be unable to protect him from his enemies. The young Fionn met the leprechaun-like druid and poet Finn Eces, or Finnegas, near the river Boyne and studied under him. Finnegas had spent seven years trying to catch the Salmon of Knowledge, which lived in a pool on the Boyne and became all-knowing through its diet of hazelnuts from a holy tree: whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the world.
The old man caught it, told the boy to cook it for him. While cooking it Deimne burned his thumb, instinctively put his thumb in his mouth; this imbued him with the salmon's wisdom, when Finn Eces saw that he had gained wisdom, he gave young Fionn the whole salmon to eat. Fionn knew how to gain revenge against Goll, in subsequent stories was able to call on the knowledge of the salmon by putting his thumb to the tooth that had first tasted the salmon; the story of Fionn and the salmon of knowledge and the Welsh tale of Gwion Bach are similar. Every year for 23 years at Samhain, a fire-breathing man of the Sidhe, would lull the men of Tara to sleep with his music before burning the palace to the ground, the Fianna, led by Goll mac Morna, were powerless to prevent it; the Fianna were a band of warriors known as a military order composed of the members of two clans, "Clan Bascna" and "Clan Morna", the Fenians were supposed to be devoted to the service of the High King and to the repelling of foreign invaders.
Fionn arrived at Tara with his father's crane-skin bag of magical weapons. He kept himself awake by touching the point of his magically red-hot spear to his forehead; the pain kept allowing him to pursue and kill Aillen with the same spear. After that his heritage was recognised and he was given command of the Fianna: Goll willingly stepped aside, became a loyal follower of Fionn, although in some stories their alliance is uneasy. Fionn demanded compensation for his father's death from Tadg, threatening war or single combat against him if he refused. Tadg offered him his home, the hill of Allen, as compensation, which Fionn accepted. Fionn met his most famous wife, when he was out hunting, she had been turned into a deer by Fear Doirich, whom she had refused to marry. Fionn's hounds and Sceólang, born of a human enchanted into the form of a hound, recognised her as human, Fionn brought her home, she transformed back into a woman the moment she set foot on Fionn's land, as this was the one place she could regain her true form.
She and Fionn married and she was soon pregnant. When Fionn was away defending his country, Fear Doirich returned and turned her back into a deer, whereupon she vanished. Fionn spent years searching for her, but to no avail. Bran and Sceólang, again hunting, found Oisín, in the form of a fawn. In The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne the High King Cormac mac Airt promises the aging Fionn his daughter Gráinne, but at the wedding feast Gráinne falls for one of the Fianna, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, noted for his beauty, she forces him to run away with her and Fionn pursues them. The lovers are helped by the Fianna, by Diarmuid's foster-father, the god Aengus. Fionn makes his peace with the couple. Years however, Fionn invites Di
High King of Ireland
The High Kings of Ireland were sometimes historical and sometimes legendary figures who had, or who are claimed to have had, lordship over the whole of Ireland for centuries. Medieval and early modern Irish literature portrays an unbroken sequence of High Kings, ruling from the Hill of Tara over a hierarchy of lesser kings, stretching back thousands of years. Modern historians believe this scheme is artificial, constructed in the 8th century from the various genealogical traditions of politically powerful groups, intended to justify the current status of those groups by projecting it back into the remote past; the concept of national kingship is first articulated in the 7th century, but only became a political reality in the Viking Age, then not a consistent one. While the High Kings' degree of control varied, Ireland was never ruled by them as a politically unified state, as the High King was conceived of as an overlord exercising suzerainty over, receiving tribute from, the independent kingdoms beneath him.
Early Irish kingship was sacred in character. In the early narrative literature a king is a king because he marries the sovereignty goddess, is free from blemish, enforces symbolic buada and avoids symbolic geasa. According to 7th and 8th century law tracts, a hierarchy of kingship and clientship progressed from the rí tuaithe through the ruiri to a rí ruirech; each king ruled directly only within the bounds of his own petty kingdom and was responsible for ensuring good government by exercising fír flaithemon. His responsibilities included convening its óenach, collecting taxes, building public works, external relations, emergency legislation, law enforcement, promulgating legal judgment; the lands in a petty kingdom were held allodially by various fine of freemen. The king occupied the apex of a pyramid of clientship within the petty kingdom; this pyramid progressed from the unfree population at its base up to the heads of noble fine held in immediate clientship by the king. Thus the king was drawn from the dominant fine within the cenél.
The kings of the Ulster Cycle are kings in this sacred sense, but it is clear that the old concept of kingship coexisted alongside Christianity for several generations. Diarmait mac Cerbaill, king of Tara in the middle of the 6th century, may have been the last king to have "married" the land. Diarmait died at the hands of Áed Dub mac Suibni. Adomnán's Life tells; the same Threefold Death is said in a late poem to have befallen Diarmait's predecessor, Muirchertach macc Ercae, the reliable Annals of Ulster record Muirchertach's death by drowning in a vat of wine. A second sign that sacred kingship did not disappear with the arrival of Christianity is the supposed lawsuit between Congal Cáech, king of the Ulaid, Domnall mac Áedo. Congal was blinded in one eye by Domnall's bees, from whence his byname Cáech, this injury rendering him imperfect and unable to remain High King; the enmity between Domnall and Congal can more prosaically be laid at the door of the rivalry between the Uí Néill and the kings of Ulaid, but that a king had to be whole in body appears to have been accepted at this time.
The business of Irish succession is rather complicated because of the nature of kingship in Ireland before the Norman take-over of 1171. Ireland was divided into a multiplicity of kingdoms, with some kings owing allegiance to others from time to time, succession rules varied. Kings were succeeded by their sons, but other branches of the dynasty took a turn—whether by agreement or by force of arms is clear; the king-lists and other early sources reveal little about how and why a particular person became king. To add to the uncertainty, genealogies were edited many generations to improve an ancestor's standing within a kingdom, or to insert him into a more powerful kindred; the uncertain practices in local kingship cause similar problems when interpreting the succession to the high kingship. The High King of Ireland was a ceremonial, pseudo-federal overlord, who exercised actual power only within the realm of which he was king. In the case of the southern branch of the Uí Neill, this would have been the Kingdom of Meath.
High Kings from the northern branch ruled various kingdoms in what became the province of Ulster. In 1002, the high kingship of Ireland was wrested from Mael Sechnaill II of the southern Uí Neill by Brian "Boruma" mac Cennédig of the Kingdom of Munster; some historians have called this a "usurpation" of the throne. Others have pointed out that no one had a strict legal right to the kingship and that Brian "had as much right to the high throne as any Uí Neill and... displayed an ability sadly lacking amongst most of the Uí Neill who had preceded him."Brian was killed in the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. Mael Sechnaill II was restored to the High Kingship but he died in 1022. From 1022 through the Norman take-over of 1171, the High Kingship was held alongside "Kings with Opposition". At the time the law tracts were being written these petty kingdoms were being swept away by newly emerging dynasties of dynamic overkings
The mythology of pre-Christian Ireland did not survive the conversion to Christianity. However, much of it was preserved in medieval Irish literature, though it was shorn of its religious meanings; this literature represents the most extensive and best preserved of all the branches of Celtic mythology. Although many of the manuscripts have not survived and much more material was never committed to writing, there is enough remaining to enable the identification of distinct, if overlapping, cycles: the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle and the Historical Cycle. There are a number of extant mythological texts that do not fit into any of the cycles. Additionally, there are a large number of recorded folk tales that, while not mythological, feature personages from one or more of these four cycles. Today some of the best known tales are of Tír na nÓg, Fionn MacCumhaill, Na Fianna, The Aos Sí / Aes Sídhe, Sétanta, The Tuatha Dé Danann, the Children of Lir, Táin Bó Cúailnge & the Salmon of Knowledge.
Depending on the sources, the importance of gods and goddesses in Irish mythology varies. The geographical tales, emphasize the importance of female divinities while the historical tradition focuses on the colonizers, inventors, or male warriors with the female characters only intervening in episodes. Goddesses are linked to a place and they seem to draw their power from that place, they are maternal deities caring for the earth itself as well as children. They are connected to poetry, smith craft, healing. Many appear to be prophetic when foretelling death as well as transformational. Zoomorphism is an important feature for many Irish deities. Badb Catha, the Raven of Battle, introduces zoomorphism to celtic deities of both sexes. Male deities are less zoomorphic than the female deities in the Irish tradition, but there are still some instances of shapeshifting among gods. There is a presence in Irish Mythology of the Triad referred to as the "power of three," which expresses the extreme potency of a deity rather than dividing the power.
It is an attribute more pronounced among female deities. Dagda is called by two other names, Lug has two brothers, there is the Three Gods of Skill There is a lack of a goddess of love equivalent to Aphrodite or Venus due to the predominance of the maternal element in the culture of the Celts. There are multiple categories of goddesses in Irish Mythology: the Mother Goddess, Seasonal Goddess, Warrior Goddess are a few; some of these goddesses are considered to be all one goddess while other stories treat them as separate. Among the mother goddesses is Anu the goddess of Danu. Additionally, Brigit is a mother goddess, sometimes considered one goddess and sometimes considered the three sisters Brigit, she is the mother goddess that watches over childbirth. She brings abundance. Brigit can be categorized as a seasonal goddess and one can win her favor by burying a fowl alive at the meeting of three waters as a form of sacrifice, she survives as Saint Brigit in the Christian faith and some modern folklore makes her midwife to the Blessed Virgin.
The function of these goddesses involves the entire cycle of life from birth through adolescence and the fertility. They are protecting forces that provide the necessities of life within the home and are envisioned as being the earth itself, their importance have led some scholars to propose a matrilineal social organization and others highlight this argument as being feminist propaganda and deny all indications of importance. These goddesses are the patronesses of feasts, they appear during great feasts of Ireland and they bring abundance. The main goddesses are the Machas: Carman, Tea, but there are other seasonal goddesses. Warrior Goddesses are linked with warrior women because there is historical evidence of women leading their tribes into battle. Oftentimes, warrior goddesses are depicted in a trio; this trio can change to include different goddesses. They reign over the battlefield without having to physically be involved, they do not need to strike a blow because they control the events while the male deities are depicted as being in the battles.
This aspect leads to the discussion of women as the gods of slaughter. Scholars note that the female deities govern the natural event while the male deities govern the social event; the main goddesses of war are Morrigan and Bodb. The Irish Gods are divided into four main groups. Group one encompasses the older gods of Britain; the second group is the main focus of much of the mythology and surrounds the native Irish gods with their homes in burial mounds. The third group are the gods that dwell in the sea and the fourth group includes stories of the Otherworld; the gods that appear most are Dagda and Lug. Some scholars have argued that the stories of these gods align with the Greek gods. Druids were held in high esteem by the community as religious leaders, their functions and origins are debated which some attribute to the fact that there was no written tradition. This lack of documentary evidence is said to be because the practices become common property and this makes the student relax their diligence.
They are figures in Irish Mythology and study astronomy. Heroes in Irish mythology can be found in two distinct groups. There is the hero outside of the tribe; the first group encompasses all, subject to man and his works must belong to the tribe and live under its laws. Within the tribe, heroes are of the race of humans and gods